Hiring a Professional Editor? Here’s What to Expect

writer

If you’re thinking about hiring a professional editor, the first step is to consider your goal. Are you self-publishing a book? Do you want to put your best foot (or word) forward when marketing your well-being service? Do want clickable content that search engines will find and people will read?

Of course, you can do a lot of this on your own. Before you think about paying for help, learn as much as you can about creating sound copy. (If you need some help, you can download my free resource here.)

But we all need help from time to time. Even editors hire editors. (I do!)

How Can an Editor Help You?

Think about what you want help with and set some realistic expectations about the time and cost involved. The most important piece of advice I can give you is find a professional editor who knows about your topic. Better still, find someone with a passion for it! Also be sure to find someone you connect with.

A carefully selected second pair of eyes can cut your workload by more than half, because neither you nor your editor will burn out if you both own the project. You’ll want to be able to work together efficiently. You should enjoy the process and feel supported as well as assisted.

How Quickly Can a Professional Editor Work?

Granted the term professional is not regulated, but there is a wide range of skill when it comes to editors. Keep in mind that fast is not better. (On the other hand, slow doesn’t necessarily mean detailed or thorough.)

Knowing a bit about how editors work can help you decide if you’ve found one worth hiring.

In her book, The Copyeditor’s Handbook, editor and teacher Amy Einsohn, a leader in the field of copyediting, gives the following estimates of a “typical pace for copyediting hard copy.” The estimates are based on two passes (the minimum necessary to do the job well).

Light copyedit: 4-9 pages per hour

Medium copyedit 2-7 pages per hour

Heavy copyedit 1-3 pages per hour

The “pages” Einsohn refers to are manuscript pages, which are typically only 250-325 words in length. (Manuscript pages are double-spaced for ease of editing.)

How Much Should Hiring a Professional Editor Cost?

I recently took a continuing education course in which the topic of fees was raised. According to instructor Jacqueline Landis, an editor with more than 15 years of experience, “The rock-bottom rate for an established editor is $20 per hour for light to medium copyediting. An average rate is $35 per hour, and the top rate ranges from $50 to $75 per hour.” The higher fees are usually for very heavy developmental editing.

If you have a 25,000-word manuscript (approximately 50 single-spaced pages in Times New Roman 12-point font), editing fees can range from $150 to more than $5000! For a typical light to medium edit, expect to pay at least a few hundred dollars for a professional edit.

What do copyeditors do?

So what do you get for your investment in professional editing? The short answer to this question is, “probably more than you realize!” If you are hiring a professional editor, ask about his or her process. Look for clues that the person is a qualified, experienced editor. Here are some questions (and answers) that may help.

1. Does the editor use a style sheet? You shouldn’t have to ask this question, because all professional editors do. In case you’re not aware of this tool of the trade, a style sheet is a form of keeping notes, usually on a chart. The goal is to keep track of anything that may be inconsistent or need attention as the editor reads. Style sheets are crucial to accuracy, as you probably can imagine. For example, while editing a book that is hundreds of pages long, it would be easy to miss that a name is spelled one way on page 3 and another way on page 233 without a style sheet.

Editors also use style sheets to note stylistic preferences. For example, should there be a comma before the conjunction in the last item in a series? (If you were in school more than a few years ago, you may not realize this is now optional.)

2. How many “passes” will the editor do?  “Pass” is editor-speak for reading the manuscript once. As I mentioned before, two passes are the minimum for quality work. In some cases, due to budget or time constraints, an author may request only one, but be aware that it is not reasonable to expect perfection if you do this.

3. How does the editor ensure accuracy? Some tricks of the trade include reading the manuscript out loud, taking a break at least once every two hours, or spending no more than 6 hours editing on a given day (except in emergencies). Yes, we all want things done quickly, but as I said, quick does not mean good. Editing is tedious work. If an editor promises to complete a 300-page manuscript in 3 days, find another editor!

3. Does the editor work on hard copy with traditional proofreaders’ marks or on electronic copy using a feature like Microsoft Word’s Track Changes? If the editor doesn’t know much about either  of these methods, don’t expect professional results.

4. Which style guide does the editor use? There are different guides for different purposes. Some companies have their own house style as well. I use CMOS (The Chicago Manual of Style) or AP (Associated Press) unless a client requests something else. Ask this question to ensure the editor you hire will not simply be working from memory of high school English class.

One quick tidbit before you get out there and find a great editor. There is no consensus on how “copyeditor” should be spelled. CMOS (and I) spell it as one word; AP (the style guide for journalists) spells it as two (copy editor). Go figure!

Not ready to hire an editor? Join my email list and receive access to my free guide that will help you start editing your own work today!

Do You Need an Editor? Here’s How to Find Support For Your Writing Project

meditation for writersRecently, a member of a Facebook group for bloggers posted this question: Who do you use to edit your blog posts? The answers ranged from some type of software to “my mother” to a seasoned pro. Why the disparity? I think because when people use the term “editor,” they tend to use it loosely. So, do you need an editor, or does your project require another kind of service?

What is an editor?

An editor is not a proofreader. Sure, all editors will proofread, but that’s not the focus of their art. And make no mistake, editing is both an art and a science. An editor is also not a ghostwriter, though many editors do ghostwrite as well. (It’s a distinct service.)

Most editing projects float somewhere among the three services I’ve just described. But even if your needs fall squarely within the realm of editing, there is more than one type of service to consider. Most seasoned, professional editors break services into three categories: light editing (which lives at the border of proofreading), moderate editing (also called line editing or copyediting), and substantive editing (which lives at the border of ghostwriting).

Do you need an editor?

Many people ask for proofreading or light editing when they really need something more. Being specific about what you need is not the same thing as being specific about what you want to pay for. If you ask for proofreading but your copy is still in the “rough draft” stage, you’ll need to rethink your strategy.  After all, you wouldn’t hire a painter before you’ve had drywall installed, would you?

Think of an editor as more than someone who will check your grammar and spelling. Yes, you can probably use software for that, though even the best software will miss nuances that make your writing unique. Unless you’re writing academic or technical material, there’s little need to be so “correct” that your writing is boring. Trying to get all the red and green lines in your Word doc to disappear is usually a waste of time (though I’ll admit it is tempting)!

For most writers, especially bloggers and authors who craft pieces to communicate something they’re passionate about, an editor should have at least the following three things to offer.

1. She should know more about grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. than your friend who was good in English. Ask which style guide she uses, and check out the resource she mentions. Ask what kind of training she has. (I have an eye for detail is not an adequate answer.) This is especially important if you’re writing a book that you would like to market professionally at some point.

2. She should have an editorial process. Unless you simply want a proofreader, your editing project should involve several steps. You should understand how you will participate in the process, and you should be clear on what your editor will and will not do. (Hint: She will not change your voice or rewrite your content unless you ask her to, and she will not act like your high school English teacher!)

3. She should be familiar with your niche or subject. Search for an editor, and you’ll probably find hundreds in no time at all! The icing on the cake if you want the best fit for your project is knowledge of your subject matter. Why? It won’t necessarily cost you more to hire someone familiar with your topic (unless it’s very technical). But you will get more for your money. An editor who knows your audience will serve not only as a grammar geek who can ensure that your copy flows well, but she will also stand in for your readers. She’ll understand what you’re trying to communicate, and she’ll be able to suggest when your message isn’t clear.

A good editor with experience in your niche is an ally for both you and your readers. She’ll help you when you’re stuck on a way to find the words for something you’re passionate about because she is passionate about the same thing! For example, my clients who are nutritionists, health coaches, life coaches, personal trainers, therapists, and yoga teachers are comfortable working with me because they know I’ve read hundreds of pages of content on these topics. I know what’s out there, how to make their project unique, and how to make sure it’s on par with content that works for other well-being professionals.

What does a good editor cost?

Again, there’s no simple answer to this question. A good place to start is the Editorial Freelancers Association’s rate sheet. You can find it here.

High quality editing doesn’t have to cost a fortune, but don’t expect it to be cheap either. You truly will get what you pay for. Look for someone who is reasonably priced, but understand that editing is not as simple as many people think. If you’re in doubt about what you’ll get for your money, ask for a free sample edit. Most editors will provide one.

If you’re lucky enough to find someone who values her own abilities as well as yours—in other words, if your editor is passionate enough about what you do to see beyond dollar signs, but also a consummate professional—you’ve got a keeper. Respect for each other is the key to a professional relationship that goes beyond spell-checking and “correcting” your work.

So, do you need an editor, or is your project safe in your roommate’s hands? Only you can decide!

Not ready to hire an editor? Join my email list and receive access to my free guide that will help you start editing your own work today!

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